Fog in the Atlantic, America Isolated

From the BBC:

Leaders of 19 nations at the G20 summit in Germany have renewed their pledge to implement the Paris deal on climate change, despite the US pulling out.

Deadlock over the issue had held up the last day of talks in Hamburg but a final agreement was eventually reached.

It acknowledges President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement without undermining the commitment of other countries.

Okay.

In her closing news conference, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she still deplored Mr Trump’s position on the Paris accord but she was “gratified” the other 19 nations opposed its renegotiation.

And French President Emmanuel Macron also remained hopeful of persuading Mr Trump to change his mind, saying: “I never despair of convincing him because I think it’s my duty.”

One of the biggest mistakes people make when dealing with Trump is thinking it is all about him. This is understandable given Trump thinks everything is about him and so did his predecessor. But even Trump would probably acknowledge that on this issue, and several others, he is simply representing the interests of the people who elected him. That is his job after all, but Merkel, Macron, and the rest don’t seem to understand this: they talk of changing Trump’s mind as if he’s decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement just for the fun of it, instead of it being something he was specifically elected to do. I genuinely doubt they realise that the commitments they’re demanding must first be approved by the senate. The way Macron has kicked off his presidential career, he probably thinks everyone at the G20 can do anything they like, as if they’re medieval kings.

Of course, this is the problem with politicians today, they think they’re leaders of the people rather than mere representatives (a distinction which the Samizdata commenters weighed in on recently). I don’t recall anyone specifically asking the British or French electorates whether they wanted to sign up to this crap, the ruling elites simply agreed among each other that it would happen, and took silence from the masses as consent. Of course, this was only possible because the costs of the agreement are hidden and fall mainly on the United States anyway: as the world’s biggest producer of goods and services, an effective tax on economic activity will hit them the hardest. It’s easy to bully citizens into signing up to something if you hide or lie about the costs, just look at the Olympics. And it’s easier to get people to take a hit if somebody else is getting fucked over twice as hard.

With the USA being the elephant in the room without whose cooperation the whole exercise is pointless, politicians should have spent time and effort finding a solution Americans could accept. Instead, as with the Kyoto Protocol a generation earlier, they didn’t bother and now talk of America being isolated. This is the equivalent of Spanish football clubs forming a league without Real Madrid and Barcelona and claiming the two giants clubs are isolated. Or it’s like world cricket trying to pass reforms without the Indians on board, the folly of which took the blazered idiots in English cricket a long time to learn.

Of course, I think this was quite deliberate. These agreements are set up precisely so the USA will reject them, giving everyone else an excuse to drag their feet or explain why none of these expensive policies has made any difference. And if they do sign up, the Americans hobble their economy and hand over piles of cash. It’s a win-win except for Americans, which is why they keep rejecting it. Little wonder Trump cleared off early and got his daughter to take over.

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Politics, Technology, and Electric Cars

I suppose this is what passes for leadership these days:

France is set to ban the sale of any car that uses petrol or diesel fuel by 2040, in what the ecology minister called a “revolution”.

Nicolas Hulot announced the planned ban on fossil fuel vehicles as part of a renewed commitment to the Paris climate deal.

He said France planned to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Hybrid cars make up about 3.5% of the French market, with pure electric vehicles accounting for just 1.2%.

Firstly, a policy that will only come into force years after the government has left office should be ignored as a matter of course: it’s posturing, nothing more. It’s akin to the schoolkid who boasts he can do a double back-flip but not today, and tomorrow is a Saturday.

Secondly, the announcement implies that everything is on course for electric cars to eventually replace petrol or diesel cars, and all that’s needed is a government push to fund the infrastructure and overcome the inertia. Indeed, that’s what most people seem to think, that electric cars are inevitable and the only thing standing in the way of a wholesale switchover is the mindset of the public, hence the government should intervene to forcibly change it.

Nothing could be further from the truth. There are several massive hurdles to be overcome before electric cars will become widespread.

1. Where is the electricity going to come from? Charging a few thousand cars is one thing, millions is something else. Whatever energy is currently being expended by burning petrol will have to be generated as electricity, minus any efficiency gains. The current grid is woefully undersized to meet such a demand, probably by an order of magnitude when you consider peak loadings. We could build lots of nuclear plants, but the people who want electric cars don’t like them. Wind is never, ever going to generate much useful power and dependence on solar power requires a step-change in technology which I think will come, but we’re not there yet. Will we be there in 2040? I don’t know, and nor does anyone. Otherwise, we’ll have to build more gas-driven power stations. Will this be better or worse for the environment than the internal combustion engine? Nobody knows.

2. As I wrote here, the problem with electric cars is not so much their range but the charging times. Nobody is going to want to sit around for more than ten minutes waiting for their car to charge unless it’s overnight or while at work, but that seriously restricts the car’s use to regular, short journeys. To overcome this we need a step-change in battery or energy storage technology which isn’t even on the horizon yet. So that’s two technological step-changes we need by 2040.

3. Nobody has really looked at the environmental and economic costs of tens of millions of electric cars. The batteries are big, heavy, and expensive and contain nasty substances. They don’t last long, so how will they be disposed of? How much will they cost to replace? What effect will this have on the used value of the car? Electric cars require nickel, copper, and cobalt. Where do we get this from? Where are the mines? All these issues can be solved but only once the real costs and externalities are known and compared with the situation today. Right now nobody has a clue, but governments have picked a winner anyway. That rarely works out well. In their efforts to improve the quality of air in western cities, politicians might well be make the environment in the developing world worse, especially around the mines. Also, the upgrade of infrastructure to handle mass car charging is enormous. Thousands of miles of new copper cabling will have to be installed, but at what cost – both in cash and environmental terms? Apparently this is something governments think they can do – the same governments that can’t manage to install proper cladding on apartment blocks.

Some humility wouldn’t go amiss, would it? Slim chance of seeing any, though:

Mr Hulot, a veteran environmental campaigner, was appointed by new French President Emmanuel Macron. Mr Macron has openly criticised US environmental policy, urging Donald Trump to “make our planet great again”.

I don’t know if today’s politicians are so thick they believe the bullshit they come out with, or they’re simply adept at saying whatever their core voters want to hear. What amuses me is so many people think this immature posturing is leadership, and cheer it loudly.

Norway, which is the leader in the use of electric cars in Europe, wants to move to electric-only vehicles by 2025, as does the Netherlands. Both Germany and India have proposed similar measures with a target of 2030.

None of this will happen. The idiots who proposed it will either start lying about what they promised, or they’ll be turfed out of office.

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The Reality of Organic Farming

How anything in this BBC article about organic milk should come as a surprise is beyond me:

Buy a pack of organic milk and generally you feel you have done the world and the environment a service – albeit a small, litre-sized one.

After all, you think, a happy cow in a grassy field is probably a good thing, environmentally speaking.

Which is probably why Arla decided to say its organic milk was “good for the land” and “a more sustainable future”.

Arla Foods is no small-scale outfit. It is a massive European milk co-operative ranked as the fourth-largest milk producer in the world.

The organic farming movement would have people believe that their products are grown in allotments or hand-reared in small farms of the type that appear in Famous Five stories. What is amusing is the dim middle classes, particularly professional women with a surplus household income, actually believe it.

Of course Arla Foods is an enormous corporation. If the consumption of organic produce is limited to a few hippies living in wigwams then sure, you don’t need any industrial-scale operation to meet demand. But once the numbers increase the suppliers are going to have to scale up, particularly if the customers are all living in cities (and they almost all do: most consumers of organically farmed products wouldn’t know a combine from a cattle grid). How many people consume organic products in London, say? Over a million, probably. This demand isn’t going to be met by farmer Giles on his local farm using practices from the 1950s.

It’s the same reason I get annoyed when people sing the praises of their jolly local butcher who is a little bit more expensive but is oh so much better than those nasty supermarkets. What they don’t realise is their local butcher is selling to wealthy, niche customers while the supermarkets provide for the masses. If the supermarkets weren’t there and the butcher was the only option, they’d be selling overpriced offal with tubes sticking out.

The argument for organic milk is not as straightforward as you might imagine.

Organic dairy producers do feed their animals with crops grown without the use of synthetic pesticides. They don’t use antibiotics. They use less energy in producing and carting around concentrates. All those are plus points.

But organic farms produce less milk per head of cattle. So they use more land and more cows per litre. And there is the awkward matter of methane, a greenhouse gas, which cows produce in abundance.

Firstly, why is not using antibiotics automatically assumed to be a good thing? Animals get sick just the same as we do, and treating them with antibiotics is as sensible as it is for humans. Would we think denying antibiotics to a child suffering from tonsillitis is virtuous? Probably not, but apparently letting a cow suffer from an infected sore is. Now I get that the agricultural industry has been irresponsible in its use of antibiotics, using them as preventive measures to stop intestinal infections caused by feeding them shite, and that practice should be eliminated. But a blanket ban on antibiotics is stupid.

Secondly, that organic farms are less efficient than conventional ones is something Tim Worstall was pointing out a decade ago. Almost by definition, organic farms need more land (meaning more hedges destroyed, more wetlands drained) and use more resources and energy (more weeding, larger areas to plough) to produce the equivalent yield of a conventional crop. As with everything, it’s a trade off:

“Organic farms perform better in terms of soil and water quality, and species biodiversity, but can perform worse in terms of methane emissions.”

And on a host of other criteria, I expect.

We’re going to see the same thing with electric cars if they ever actually take off (which I doubt, but I might be wrong). A few thousand virtue-signalling celebrities and public-sector employees in places like Norway might not produce much by way of externalities, but if that gets scaled up to the millions or tens of millions across multiple cities, what do things look like then? Where does the electricity come from? Where do the chemicals and metals in the batteries come from? How do we dispose of them?

From what I can tell, most environmental campaigns are designed to relieve the dim but wealthy middle classes of a portion of their income in exchange for making them feel good about themselves. I can only marvel at their effectiveness.

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Toys Thrown from Goldman Sachs Pram

This Tweet by the CEO of Goldman Sachs amused me for two reasons:

The first is all the lefties getting their knickers wet over a Tweet – his first – by the CEO of Goldman Sachs. Since when have the left been supporters of colossal, too-big-to-fail American investment banks with suspiciously Jewish-sounding names? I remember the days when governments were in hoc to the big, evil banking corporations which single-handedly brought about the global financial crisis. But when, in a naked display of financial self-interest, Goldman Sachs and others came out in opposition to Brexit the left told us we should all heed their warnings. And now they’re at it again.

The second reason this amuses me is because it’s obvious Goldman Sachs is about to lose a shit-tonne of money over the US pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. I bet they had all sorts of “green” investment funds and other rent-seeking and subsidy-harvesting vehicles ready to go, which would represent a transfer of wealth from ordinary citizens to the executives at Goldman Sachs. And now Trump’s come and spoiled the party for them.

Good.

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Two decades and still they don’t get it

It’s been twenty years since the US senate effectively rejected the demands of the Kyoto Protocol by the slim margin of 95-0. Amid the wailing and insults that followed, nobody stopped to consider that the proposals “would seriously harm the economy of the United States” and that getting the Americans on board ought to have been a top priority for anyone interested in getting it ratified. Alas, back then everyone thought they could shame and bully the Americans into hobbling their own economy in order to virtue-signal in front of third-world kleptocrats. Turned out they couldn’t.

It seems the lesson is taking some time to learn:

Six world leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris accord, the world’s first comprehensive deal aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions.

However, the US has refused to recommit to the agreement, saying it will make a decision next week.

As I said back in 2005 on my old blog:

In a democracy such as the US, it is not possible to browbeat a president into doing something which is deeply unpopoular with the general population. In tin-pot countries such as Azerbaijan, Congo, Djibouti, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Russia, and Syria, the president can ratify anything he likes, because if he bothers with elections at all, they are mere formalities which simply prove that the incumbent should be in office for life. In short, if the world wants the US to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, they are going to have to make a decent case and sell it to the general population of the United States. (In Europe this has not been necessary, as thanks to the EU, sweeping decisions are made at a lofty and detached level guarded by a phalanx of bureaucratic jargon and overpaid consultants, meaning there is no longer a requirement to gain approval from the ignorant masses.) And in so far as the world has tried to sell Kyoto to the US population, they have failed miserably. Beyond repeating the mantra that the US is the “biggest polluter” and is responsible for the impending armageddon – and hence they must sacrifice their standard of living for the good of mankind – not the world, the UN, or anybody else has made a case at all. When the Yanks question the presented evidence, be it of the problem itself or the suitability of the Kyoto Protocol to address it, they are met not with reasoned argument but by howls of derision, insult, and abuse. This tactic of trying to browbeat the American public into sacrificing anything, as history would have told them, has not worked despite four years of the world’s great and good trying.

Tell me, dear readers, what has changed?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the discussion on climate change had been “very unsatisfactory”, adding “we have a situation of six against one”.

Poor old Merkel is used to strutting around Europe bullying lesser countries into doing Germany’s bidding, but now she’s come across a country that can’t be shoved around her powers of diplomacy and persuasion are found wanting. The very fact that she’s talking about numerical advantages shows she doesn’t quite understand the power dynamic at play here, and that America’s economic interests are not subject to majority votes cast by a bunch of foreigners who largely detest them.

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Are the German Greens suffering the same fate as UKIP?

Staying on the subject of lunatic Greens, they are facing electoral gloom in Germany:

Germany’s once high-flying Green Party is foundering in many states. After a disastrous election result in North Rhine-Westphalia, the party is promising change, but it may come too late for September’s national poll.

The whole article is worth reading and gives some idea as to why the Greens, who were once a powerful political force in Germany’s coalition governments, are now in trouble:

Following the widely publicized incidents on New Year’s Eve 2015 in Cologne, which saw widespread sexual assaults committed largely by asylum seekers, the party struggled to come up with a clear position on its refugee and security policies (they still aren’t even clear today).

It seems the Germans haven’t quite rejected populism, either.

The party successfully helped block deportations of Afghan nationals whose asylum applications had been rejected, but it did little to communicate what the rest of its asylum policies might look like.

Quite how deluded one would need to be to do something like this and expect electoral success, even in Germany, is difficult to imagine.

Furthermore, in a state that has undergone deep structural changes, with the end of coal mining and much heavy industry, the party could have benefited by positioning itself more strongly as an environmentalist party. Instead, the party placed its focus almost entirely on education — despite the fact that only 4 percent of voters in the state consider the Greens to be truly competent in this policy area.

I think that paragraph offers the best explanation, although the author doesn’t quite say it. The fact is, all mainstream political parties adopted the Greens’ more sensible environmental policies years ago, as well as too many of their idiotic ones. Germany has already agreed to close its nuclear power plants and impose the strictest environmental legislation in Europe on its industries and households. The same pattern is repeated across most of the developed world now: every major political party has signed up to the hysteria on climate change (even Trump has yet to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, as he promised he would), air pollution is a permanent hot-topic particularly now the results of pushing everyone to switch to diesel engines is becoming clear, recycling has been firmly adopted as the new religion in the west, and useless windmills are being built at an ever-increasing pace to meet ludicrous renewable energy targets.

This has left the Greens outflanked on most environmental subjects. In order to differentiate themselves they’ve been forced to propose utterly insane policies (ban motor cars, stop eating meat, etc.) and to venture into other areas (e.g. education) where they are useless or social matters (e.g. immigration) where they are out of whack with the majority of the population. The mainstream parties have stolen their popular policies leaving them looking like a bunch of nutjobs on the fringe. Which they are, of course.

A reasonable similarity may be drawn between the fate of the Greens in Germany and that of UKIP in Britain. UKIP have found their defining policy – Britain leaving the EU – adopted by the Conservatives, leaving little reason for voters to stick with them. Whenever UKIP have tried to branch out from their main policy into other areas they’ve proved themselves to be an incoherent, squabbling mess which no sensible voter would go anywhere near. With Brexit underway, their raison d’être has vanished and they lack the competence to transform themselves into a serious party. Perhaps the Greens in Germany and elsewhere are treading the same path. I certainly hope so.

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Obama’s Arctic Ban Overturned

Donald Trump has signed an executive order aimed at reducing restrictions on oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic in order to “unleash American energy”.

reports the BBC.

It could undo a ban put in place by Barack Obama in order to protect swathes of the ocean from development.

A ban put in place via executive order in December 2016 is one of many pieces of legislation Obama petulantly signed in his last hours in office mainly to hamstring his successor. In other words, reversing the ban will take us back to the end of last year. Was America a vast wasteland where any human peaking out of the ash piles would be picked off by giant, mutant pterodactyls? No.

It is debatable how much income might be generated by a reversal of Mr Obama’s order. Worldwide prices for oil have dropped in recent years, with a review by news agency Reuters finding the amount of money oil companies spent in the central Gulf of Mexico’s annual lease sale dropped by more than 75% between 2012 and 2017.

Perhaps Trump, unlike Reuters and BBC journalists, is aware that the oil industry is cyclic and the period in question mostly covers a downturn.

David Jenkins, president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, a non-profit conservation group, said: “The Trump administration’s hasty move today toward expanding offshore oil drilling … defies market realities and is as reckless as it is unnecessary.”

If it defies market realities, i.e. nobody is going to drill in these waters anyway, then what’s the problem? How can it be both reckless and unnecessary? Alas, thanks to the BBC’s policy of quoting environmental groups’ press releases without scrutiny, we don’t get to find out.

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Decline and Fall, BBC Version

Good grief, the BBC doesn’t half peddle some shite. This is from an article entitled How Western civilisation could collapse:

The political economist Benjamin Friedman once compared modern Western society to a stable bicycle whose wheels are kept spinning by economic growth. Should that forward-propelling motion slow or cease, the pillars that define our society – democracy, individual liberties, social tolerance and more – would begin to teeter.

So individual liberties suffer when the economy performs badly, eh? How do we explain the Blair years, then? And we’re always being told how Obama rescued the economy, yet social tolerance deteriorated markedly. If we’re sticking to the bicycle analogy, this article has gotten off to a wobbly start.

Our world would become an increasingly ugly place, one defined by a scramble over limited resources and a rejection of anyone outside of our immediate group.

Is this what happens in a recession? Some examples would be nice. But I suppose there’s no need: if it’s on the BBC, it must be true.

Should we find no way to get the wheels back in motion, we’d eventually face total societal collapse.

I’m glad the lefties at the BBC have finally figured out that a functioning economy is essential to stop us descending into a chaotic, authoritarian, basket-case. If only they’d extend this awareness to Cuba and Venezuela we’d be getting somewhere.

Such collapses have occurred many times in human history, and no civilisation, no matter how seemingly great, is immune to the vulnerabilities that may lead a society to its end.

They have? Civilisations have collapsed due to the economy not growing? I suppose the Soviet Union might count but they had, erm, a rather particular approach to their economy which might not apply to us.

Regardless of how well things are going in the present moment, the situation can always change. Putting aside species-ending events like an asteroid strike, nuclear winter or deadly pandemic, history tells us that it’s usually a plethora of factors that contribute to collapse.

Imagine how good this article would be with examples to support such bold assertions of fact.

What are they, and which, if any, have already begun to surface? It should come as no surprise that humanity is currently on an unsustainable and uncertain path – but just how close are we to reaching the point of no return?

Oh, they’re talking about mass immigration! Now it all makes sense! Actually, no, they’re not. This is the BBC.

Safa Motesharrei, a systems scientist at the University of Maryland, uses computer models to gain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that can lead to local or global sustainability or collapse. According to findings that Motesharrei and his colleagues published in 2014, there are two factors that matter: ecological strain and economic stratification.

Presumably his computer model rejected political stupidity as being too obvious a cause. And when he tried to enter ethnic hatreds as a factor his Twitter account reported him to the police.

The ecological category is the more widely understood and recognised path to potential doom, especially in terms of depletion of natural resources such as groundwater, soil, fisheries and forests – all of which could be worsened by climate change.

With the possible exception of Easter Island, where has this ever led to the breakdown of society? It seems that this is “widely understood and recognised” only by those who for some perverse reason yearn for it to happen.

That economic stratification may lead to collapse on its own, on the other hand, came as more of a surprise to Motesharrei and his colleagues. Under this scenario, elites push society toward instability and eventual collapse by hoarding huge quantities of wealth and resources, and leaving little or none for commoners who vastly outnumber them yet support them with labour.

Boilerplate Marxism came as a surprise to a researcher looking at human societies?

Eventually, the working population crashes because the portion of wealth allocated to them is not enough, followed by collapse of the elites due to the absence of labour.

Well, yes. Marx was forever telling us this was imminent over a century ago. Did it ever happen?

The inequalities we see today both within and between countries already point to such disparities. For example, the top 10% of global income earners are responsible for almost as much total greenhouse gas emissions as the bottom 90% combined.

Sorry, what? What have greenhouse gases got to do with dissatisfaction over wealth allocation? Is that really at the forefront of the minds of those eking out a living on a rubbish dump in Lagos?

Similarly, about half the world’s population lives on less than $3 per day.

Things have improved, then: the metric used to be $1 per day. Must have been the roaring success of international socialism that brought about the change.

For both scenarios, the models define a carrying capacity – a total population level that a given environment’s resources can sustain over the long term.

Are they still talking about economic growth here? Or have they abandoned that entirely? I’m not sure. If the former, they’re making the fallacy that Tim Worstall makes part of a living pointing out, that of believing economic growth must involve the consumption of more resources. Which is bollocks. If not…well, they’re peddling Malthusian nonsense and Ehrlich’s utterly discredited Population Bomb. Apparently this passes for noteworthy research at the BBC.

If the carrying capacity is overshot by too much, collapse becomes inevitable.

This seems to rely on a model of society which is analogous to an engine draining a fuel tank.

That fate is avoidable, however. “If we make rational choices to reduce factors such as inequality, explosive population growth, the rate at which we deplete natural resources and the rate of pollution – all perfectly doable things – then we can avoid collapse and stabilise onto a sustainable trajectory,” Motesharrei said. “But we cannot wait forever to make those decisions.”

So the answer is increased political control over society with fewer choices and rationing. And we must act now. I bet you didn’t see that coming.

Unfortunately, some experts believe such tough decisions exceed our political and psychological capabilities.

The oiks won’t do what us experts think they should.

“The world will not rise to the occasion of solving the climate problem during this century, simply because it is more expensive in the short term to solve the problem than it is to just keep acting as usual,” says Jorgen Randers, a professor emeritus of climate strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School.

Those pesky citizens don’t want to respond to our doom-mongering by impoverishing themselves.

“The climate problem will get worse and worse and worse because we won’t be able to live up to what we’ve promised to do in the Paris Agreement and elsewhere.”

In other words, the Paris “Agreement” wasn’t.

While we are all in this together, the world’s poorest will feel the effects of collapse first. Indeed, some nations are already serving as canaries in the coal mine for the issues that may eventually pull apart more affluent ones.

Venezuela? Zimbabwe? France?!

Syria, for example, enjoyed exceptionally high fertility rates for a time, which fueled rapid population growth. A severe drought in the late 2000s, likely made worse by human-induced climate change, combined with groundwater shortages to cripple agricultural production. That crisis left large numbers of people – especially young men – unemployed, discontent and desperate.

“Likely” made worse by human-induced climate change. Uh-huh. Anyway, poor governance, poor infrastructure, and a population with nothing to do but breed caused problems. Note that Israel – right next door – didn’t suffer the same fate.

Many flooded into urban centres, overwhelming limited resources and services there.

A rural society, then. Naturally, this is relevant to the West.

Pre-existing ethnic tensions increased, creating fertile grounds for violence and conflict.

Eh? What ethnic tensions? This may come as a surprise to the BBC, but the war in Syria is largely between the government of Bashar al-Assad and those who oppose him. It’s not Muslims v Christians v Kurds, is it?

On top of that, poor governance – including neoliberal policies that eliminated water subsidies in the middle of the drought – tipped the country into civil war in 2011 and sent it careening toward collapse.

Oh right. So insofar as there was appalling governance it was actually that which constituted sensible economics which caused the problems. And of course it was the drought which brought Syrians onto the streets in armed rebellion against the government, not decades of living under a corrupt dictatorship and the torturing of a bunch of teenagers by the regime’s secret police.

In Syria’s case – as with so many other societal collapses throughout history – it was not one but a plethora of factors that contributed, says Thomas Homer-Dixon, chair of global systems at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Canada

Nobody thinks civil wars happen because of one thing. But if we’re going to list factors which led to the Syrian civil war, perhaps we ought to focus a little more on the regime of Bashar al-Assad and not so much on “neoliberal polices” regarding water subsidies?

Homer-Dixon calls these combined forces tectonic stresses for the way in which they quietly build up and then abruptly erupt, overloading any stabilising mechanisms that otherwise keep a society in check.

Which in the case of Syria was a ruthless and highly authoritarian government. Sort of like the one half these lunatic environmentalists want to foist on us. With them in charge, of course.

The Syrian case aside, another sign that we’re entering into a danger zone, Homer-Dixon says, is the increasing occurrence of what experts call nonlinearities, or sudden, unexpected changes in the world’s order, such as the 2008 economic crisis, the rise of ISIS, Brexit, or Donald Trump’s election.

You knew it was coming, didn’t you? Never mind civil war and depletion of resources, the real danger to society lies with citizens voting in ways not approved by the enlightened elites who peddle this crap. And the election of Donald Trump in a free and fair US presidential election is exactly like a murderous medieval Islamic cult seizing lands across the Middle East and slaughtering anyone in their path. In fact, the two are so similar I don’t know why we even bother to differentiate any more. We should just call them TRISIS.

The past can also provide hints for how the future might play out.

Well, yes. More so than Motesharrei’s bloody computer models at any rate. Hence my call for examples.

Take, for example, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.

I won’t quote the whole lot, and I have no idea if the BBC has got any of this right, but the lesson seems to be that large empires are hard to maintain. How this is relevant to any Western country in 2017 is beyond me.

The Empire tried to maintain its core lands, even as the army ate up its budget and inflation climbed ever higher as the government debased its silver currency to try to cover its mounting expenses.

Eventually, it could no longer afford to prop up those heightened complexities. It was fiscal weakness, not war, that did the Empire in.

One would think the lesson here is for governments to limit their size and spending and not debase their currencies. But the BBC doesn’t want its readers to reach this rather obvious conclusion and goes back to climate change doom-mongering. But before they do we get this rather bizarre history of the oil industry:

So far, modern Western societies have largely been able to postpone similar precipitators of collapse through fossil fuels and industrial technologies – think hydraulic fracturing coming along in 2008, just in time to offset soaring oil prices.

Eh? Here is a chart showing the oil price between 2008 and 2017:

The collapse in the oil price in 2008 game as a result of the global financial crisis stymieing demand, not hydraulic fracturing making oil production cheaper. Fracking only really started to play a role after the second collapse in 2015 – again caused by weak demand – when America became (theoretically) self-sufficient in oil production due to the new technology. But according to the BBC, fossil fuel production and hydraulic fracturing is what has kept Western civilisation going the way of the Roman Empire.

Which makes me somewhat of a hero, doesn’t it? Finally, a use for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Tainter suspects this will not always be the case, however. “Imagine the costs if we have to build a seawall around Manhattan, just to protect against storms and rising tides,” he says.

A minute ago we were being told about historical precedents and the Roman Empire. Now we’re being asked to imagine ludicrous future scenarios.

Eventually, investment in complexity as a problem-solving strategy reaches a point of diminishing returns, leading to fiscal weakness and vulnerability to collapse.

I have no idea what that means, sorry. Was this article even edited? Perhaps with their £3bn per year guaranteed income, times are tough at the BBC.

That is, he says “unless we find a way to pay for the complexity, as our ancestors did when they increasingly ran societies on fossil fuels.”

This is what happens when you use a 2008 version of Google Translate when writing articles.

Also paralleling Rome, Homer-Dixon predicts that Western societies’ collapse will be preceded by a retraction of people and resources back to their core homelands.

You mean immigration will reverse? When?

As poorer nations continue to disintegrate amid conflicts and natural disasters, enormous waves of migrants will stream out of failing regions, seeking refuge in more stable states.

This doesn’t sound much like people retreating to their core homelands. It sounds pretty much like present day Europe.

Western societies will respond with restrictions and even bans on immigration; multi-billion dollar walls and border-patrolling drones and troops; heightened security on who and what gets in; and more authoritarian, populist styles of governing.

Expert academic solemnly predicts the future by stating what is already happening.

“It’s almost an immunological attempt by countries to sustain a periphery and push pressure back,” Homer-Dixon says.

So less of a “retraction of people and resources back to their core homelands” than staying put with the fruits of their labour and keeping invading hordes at bay.

Meanwhile, a widening gap between rich and poor within those already vulnerable Western nations will push society toward further instability from the inside. “By 2050, the US and UK will have evolved into two-class societies where a small elite lives a good life and there is declining well-being for the majority,” Randers says. “What will collapse is equity.”

Well, yes. It was partly recognition that a wealthy elite are running the show for themselves at the expense of the majority that delivered victories for Trump and the Brexit campaigners.

Whether in the US, UK or elsewhere, the more dissatisfied and afraid people become, Homer-Dixon says, the more of a tendency they have to cling to their in-group identity – whether religious, racial or national.

Presumably this explains the rise of Black Lives Matter and the left-driven identity politics.

Denial, including of the emerging prospect of societal collapse itself, will be widespread, as will rejection of evidence-based fact. If people admit that problems exist at all, they will assign blame for those problems to everyone outside of their in-group, building up resentment. “You’re setting up the psychological and social prerequisites for mass violence,” Homer-Dixon says. When localised violence finally does break out, or another country or group decides to invade, collapse will be difficult to avoid.

A better description of the left’s reaction to Trump becoming president is hard to find.

Europe, with its close proximity to Africa, its land bridge to the Middle East and its neighbourly status with more politically volatile nations to the East, will feel these pressures first.

They’ve been feeling them for quite some time now. Only so-called leaders are in – what was that word you mentioned earlier? – denial.

The US will likely hold out longer, surrounded as it is by ocean buffers.

And with Trump at the helm, building his wall.

On the other hand, Western societies may not meet with a violent, dramatic end. In some cases, civilisations simply fade out of existence – becoming the stuff of history not with a bang but a whimper.

Indeed. Unless we start hanging our current crop of politicians from lamp-posts (the French may use guillotines if they so desire), this is quite likely.

The British Empire has been on this path since 1918, Randers says, and other Western nations might go this route as well. As time passes, they will become increasingly inconsequential and, in response to the problems driving their slow fade-out, will also starkly depart from the values they hold dear today.

“Western nations are not going to collapse, but the smooth operation and friendly nature of Western society will disappear, because inequity is going to explode,” Randers argues.

He is right about the smooth operation and friendly nature of Western societies disappearing, but it has nothing to do with inequality. What will cause it is something the BBC and its supporters refuse to even discuss.

“Democratic, liberal society will fail, while stronger governments like China will be the winners.”

Then shouldn’t we be pleased that Trump is Hitler?

Some of these forecasts and early warning signs should sound familiar, precisely because they are already underway.

I want this guy’s job.

Western civilisation is not a lost cause, however. Using reason and science to guide decisions, paired with extraordinary leadership and exceptional goodwill, human society can progress to higher and higher levels of well-being and development, Homer-Dixon says.

Alternatively, we could just shoot those who are calling for a carefully-managed Utopia grounded in “science” and “extraordinary leadership” and let people get on with their lives. It seems to have worked pretty well so far.

Even as we weather the coming stresses of climate change, population growth and dropping energy returns, we can maintain our societies and better them.

Particularly if we ignore rubbish like this.

But that requires resisting the very natural urge, when confronted with such overwhelming pressures, to become less cooperative, less generous and less open to reason.

If we abandon our natural urges, we can live better lives. How very Soviet.

“The question is, how can we manage to preserve some kind of humane world as we make our way through these changes?” Homer-Dixon says.

Here’s my suggestion: allow British citizens to keep their money in their pockets instead of forcing them to shell out £3bn per year for the BBC to publish garbage like this. A more humane gesture I cannot imagine at this juncture.

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More from the Recycling Commissar

Remember Mark Hall of Businesswaste.co.uk, who was after Nikolai Yezhov’s old job? He’s spamming me again. Let’s take a look.

Calls to government to force Amazon and retailers to take back your packaging

Last week it was re-education camps and indoctrination of schoolkids. This week it’s deploying government force against private companies. Next week he’ll be extolling the virtues of barbed wire and watchtowers.

Popular mail order companies like Amazon and Asos should take back their packaging for recycling and ethical disposal in a money-saving move that could result in thousands of tonnes of waste being recycled.

If it was money-saving they’d already be doing it, wouldn’t they?

In the same way that grocery delivery services such as Ocado take back their own (and any other supermarkets’) plastic bags, couriers should ask if there is any mail order cardboard or plastic packing that needs to go back to the depot, a national waste and recycling company says.

According to BusinessWaste.co.uk, this is likely to boost recycling rates all over the country, and encourage householders and companies to think greener. And it would be great for Amazon’s sometimes-battered reputation, too.

Among whom is Amazon’s reputation battered? Not the customers: they seem to love it. And if not them, who cares what everyone else thinks?

“If Ocado can take back bags, then Amazon should take back boxes and Asos take back packaging,” Business Waste spokesperson Mark Hall says.

Presumably Dulux should take back empty paint tins, Castrol empty oil drums, and McDonald’s empty burger cartons.

“It might even encourage ethical consumers to shop with them, and that would be good for business.”

However has Amazon managed so far without the sagely business advice from people running garbage bins out of North Yorkshire? My guess is in their ignorance they have decided against costly side-operations irrelevant to their core business and concentrated instead on keeping their overheads as low as possible.

Latest government figures show that Britain throws away 4.7 million tonnes of paper and cardboard packaging every year, and only 3.4 million of this is recycled. While this is above EU target rates, a missing 1.3 million tonnes is still lost to the system, Business Waste says.

So cardboard can be recycled an infinite number of times, can it? From what I can tell most cardboard packaging is already recycled from higher-grade paper, and I very much doubt this recycled packaging can be further recycled too many times. In other words, there will always be wastage. Perhaps 1.3m tonnes is too high, but only an idiot would think this is “lost” to the system.

The same figures show that only a third of the 2.2 million tonnes of plastic packaging discarded every year is recycled. Again, this is above generous European targets, but still far short of what can be achieved.

At what cost? Apparently it doesn’t matter.

“It’s hard to imagine 1.3 million tonnes of anything,” Hall says,

I think this says more about Mr Hall’s brain capacity than it does Britain’s recycling efforts.

“But that amount of paper and cardboard would probably reach most of the way to the moon, if not further.”

The moon is about 385,000 kilometres away. The density of cardboard is about 0.7 tonnes per metre cubed. 1.3m tonnes of cardboard therefore has a volume of about 1.9m cubic metres. If this were to stretch to the moon it would need to be stacked in a square of 0.005 metres square, which is 7cm on each side. This doesn’t seem like the best analogy.

Here’s what BusinessWaste.co.uk suggests:

All couriers should ask if there’s “Anything to go back?” when making a delivery. Customers can hand over any mail order packaging, from any source.

Right, so couriers are expected to collect materials of unknown size, type, and quantity when making deliveries. What could possibly be wrong with this idea?

Customers expecting a delivery can leave old card and plastic packaging out to be collected

Leave out? Where? In the road?

Recycled card and plastic is sorted straight from the returning courier’s van into appropriate bins at the depot

Sorted by whom? The van driver? I bet he’s chuffed with his new role. And it may come as a surprise to the geniuses at Businesswaste.co.uk but Amazon uses third party couriers such as Royal Mail and DHL. Are postmen now going to be lugging discarded packaging around behind them as they go about their business of delivering things? Is DHL going to be driving about with a van full of somebody else’s packaging?

Bins are emptied or collected by a commercial waste and recycling company

Such as yourselves, of course.

These bins, while strictly commercial waste, should be exempted from landfill tax bills as they have been collected from domestic sources with the intent to recycle.

Sorry? I assumed this material would be exempt from landfill tax because it is going to be recycled, not dumped in landfill. Did you read this press release before spamming me with it?

This scheme should apply to online retailers such as Amazon, as well as mail order clothing outlets such as Asos which use courier services

And hence your own company can tap into Amazon’s revenue streams. Very clever.

“We see a large and enthusiastic take-up for such a system,” says Business Waste’s Mark Hall,

If there is a large and enthusiastic uptake then the problem is already solved, isn’t it?

“and it should push all mail order companies into considering more environmentally friendly packaging in the future.”

Which they did years ago anyway, without the input from from people running garbage bins out of North Yorkshire. Almost all Amazon’s packaging is made from recycled materials these days.

BusinessWaste.co.uk applauds the efforts of online mail order giants Amazon for their efforts in reducing excess packaging, but they are still occasionally guilty of sending tiny items in huge boxes padded out with rolls of brown paper.

Yes, because the packaging is done robotically using standard box sizes.

“We’d say they’re getting it right nine times out of ten,” says Hall, “But we’re still occasionally getting printer ink cartridges in boxes the size of a small car.”

If only Amazon hired glorified binmen from North Yorkshire to advise them on how best to run a logistics operation.

With the onus on the vendors to accept returned packaging, it would encourage them use much less of it, BusinessWaste.co.uk says.

Why would vendors be using more packaging than necessary? Don’t you think they’ve already thought of this and reached an optimum solution without the input of rent-seeking binmen?

“The transport network is already in place, through the courier companies” says Hall.

I’m sure they’re delighted to know that you’ve commandeered their fleets for your own hare-brained ideas.

“It just takes a brave step in the right direction to make this work.”

Getting the government to force through changes that result in staggeringly inefficient logistics, inconvenience, and higher prices for customers in order to increase the revenues of Mr Hall’s company. Why yes, how very brave.

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Soviet-Style Recycling

For some reason I’ve been sent an unsolicited email by an outfit calling themselves BusinessWaste.co.uk. I can only assume they think the contents make them look good. Do they? Let’s take a look.

Whole lorries full of domestic waste are being sent to landfill instead of going for recycling because people are just not separating their rubbish.

This is particularly case where a round has a large proportion of communal bins where the actions of just a few recycling refuseniks can spoil an entire housing estate’s recycling efforts, a national waste and recycling company says.

So there is a recycling system in place that can be rendered useless if only a few members of the public don’t comply with the requirements. Whoever devised such a system should be fired immediately and never employed again in any position other than perhaps to collect rocks from ploughed fields. Anybody – and I mean anybody – who has worked with the general public knows that no matter how hard you try to implement anything, there will be a substantial minority who through stupidity, malice, or both will simply not cooperate.

According to BusinessWaste.co.uk, the only solution could be lessons in domestic recycling funded in partnership between local authorities and the major waste companies in order to get the message across.

So the system doesn’t work because human beings don’t behave as the system expects them to. The “only solution” is re-education camps. Sorry, didn’t the Soviet Union end some time back?

“The truth of the matter is that only around 45% of domestic refuse goes to recycling these days,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall,

Is this good or bad? Anyone saying that 100% of domestic refuse should be recycled is engaged in religious worship not reasonable inquiry. We probably should recycle something, but we definitely shouldn’t recycle everything: for each material (or group of materials) we need to work out whether recycling it uses more resources (in terms of energy and cost) than simply burying or incinerating it. Perhaps 45% is too low but this is something that needs to be proved, not merely asserted.

“and one of the major reasons that we’ve failed to get this figure higher is that people still don’t know how to recycle.

Then the system of multiple bins with different collection days at varying frequencies is too complicated or confusing. Whose fault is that?

“And worse than that – there’s people who just don’t care.”

Hence the need for re-education camps and, if necessary, liquidation.

BusinessWaste.co.uk is already well aware that there is resistance to recycling from certain sections of society who are convinced – quite wrongly – that climate change and challenges to natural resources are a “con”, and that there’s no need to change lifestyles.

Who says they’re wrong? Somebody with a deep financial interest in their being wrong? Uh-huh.

“It doesn’t help when we have politicians who say we can ignore the opinions of experts, because this is one thing where all the world’s experts agree,” says Hall.

In other words, experts – such as Mr Hall – should be the ones setting policy and nobody should be allowed to question them. Lovely.

But it’s areas where the message hasn’t got through that practical lessons in recycling can help.

Citizens must undergo a minimum hundred hours garbage sorting, unpaid. For their own good.

One recent example where there’s been such a call is in the Berkshire town of Reading, where some domestic waste collections are so contaminated with the wrong kind of refuse that there is no option but to send the entire load to the town’s already straining landfill sites.

Build more landfill then. Oh we can’t, because of EU regulations written to address issues specific to Denmark and The Netherlands. But wait! We can, because we’re leaving: get digging.

In one estate in the town, communal recycling bins are left overflowing with general waste, and there’s also a problem with vermin, the Get Reading news website reports.

In other words, local governments, egged on by rent-seekers like Mr Hall, have taken a garbage collection system that worked well and turned it into one that doesn’t, then added rats.

The situation has got so bad, some residents are calling for lessons from their council to show their neighbours how to use the bins.

That’s one idea. Another is to give the council lessons in effective waste management which takes into account the whims of the public. Then Mr Hall can be put to work cleaning the insides of the bins that have just been emptied under the new system, and when he’s finished doing that he can start on the garbage trucks.

It’s a call that BusinessWaste.co.uk supports, because it means that the end result could be an end to people’s time and effort being wasted, and an increase in local recycling rates.

And let me guess: BusinessWaste.co.uk just so happens to provide such lessons. For a fee, of course.

Who’s going to pay?

As Meatloaf sang, you took the words right out of my mouth.

“Of course, there’s the problem of funding,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall, “And that’s where partnerships between councils and the major waste service providers could work wonders.

The partnership being the taxpayer coughs up for the lessons and Mr Hall’s company delivers them. Cha-ching!

“It’s in everybody’s interest to get this off the ground,” he says.

Well, it’s certainly in your interest. I’m not sure about everybody’s.

And, of course, there are savings to be made by not sending whole lorries full of waste to landfill, BusinessWaste.co.uk points out, saying that burying rubbish in the ground is an expensive business, and half-hearted council campaigns tend to fail miserably.

Landfills are expensive? Then why does the EU need to impose regulations and fines to discourage their use? Why does it need supra-national cajoling to get people recycling if the economic argument is already made?

As Reading resident Mark Williams told Get Reading, it’s the same on a local level where clean-up costs are more expensive that teaching people to get it right in the first place: “It will cost them more when they have to get it cleared up. The rats will come back so it’s an ongoing problem,” he told his local news service.

I know what’s happened here. Local governments have been told to recycle instead of dumping everything into landfills, and that requires sorting the rubbish. It is a near-certainty that the most cost-effective and efficient way of doing this would be to take everything to a giant, industrial-sized sorting facility and do it all there. But that would require capital investment as well as operational costs, and councils have blown their budgets on Diversity Outreach Coordinators and supporting fashionable lefty causes. So they’ve simply decided to instruct the citizenry to sort their rubbish at home in their own time and at their own cost, ignoring the obvious concerns that 1) perhaps millions of people individually rinsing out jam jars under the hot water tap probably isn’t energy-efficient and 2) some people are just not going to bother. Usually people declare that the sorting of rubbish takes no effort at all, but alas this idea is rather disproved by the fact that there seem to be people who can’t be arsed to do it. Sure, they may be being lazy but that also proves the sorting requires effort. Perhaps somebody ought to have considered this effort before switching the entire nation’s rubbish collection system to one which relies heavily on not a single person being bone-idle. This is Britain, not Japan.

From leaflet campaigns to door-knocking and practical demonstrations, a multi-pronged approach could really bring forth results, BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall explains.

This idiot really thinks the problem is people not being lectured enough by the government on environmental issues.

“And where the adults won’t listen, we can take the message into schools,” he says.

Start the brainwashing early, comrades! Let’s create a whole new generation of Pavlik Morozovs!

“Children and young people have traditionally been the standard bearers when it comes to changing adult habits on recycling.

So the people most receptive to your ideas are those whose education is incomplete and whose brains are not yet fully developed. What’s that telling you?

“After all, they’re the generation that’s going to have to clear up this mess we’re in.”

Aye. They’ll be the ones paying the price for your dingbat policies, too.

With millions of British people getting their recycling spot-on week-in, week-out. It’s a shame that there are a few who simply don’t get it right and wreck everybody’s efforts.

Wreckers! You couldn’t make it up.

Also, if I’d designed a system with a crucial, fundamental, and glaring obvious design flaw I’d probably be expected to say something a bit more substantial than “it’s a shame”, as if kitty just died of old age.

“It’s these people we have to reach,” says Hall, “The message is everything.”

The beatings will continue until morale improves.

This is a problem entirely of the government’s own making, a government that has been advised by rent-seeking idiots like Mr Hall whose religious-like devotion to recycling is surpassed only by his enthusiasm for treating citizens as if he was living in the Soviet Union, it was 1935, and Stalin had just appointed him head of the NKVD.

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